8 words that changed the way we all think till today
Every word conceals a story, a secret history. Behind the syllables we use every day lurk countless forgotten tales. “If you know the origin of a word”, the 6th Century scholar Isidore of Seville insisted, “everything can be more clearly comprehended”. While most words slip into currency inconspicuously and without leaving traceable trails of their journeys, there is an elite class of verbal inventions whose exact dates of initial utterance have indeed been carefully recorded.
Some of these words are the one-off brainchildren of individuals who have long faded into the fog of history. Others are the concoctions of cultural pioneers who deliberately set out to shape the way future generations think and speak. In every instance what is remarkable is how the unlocking of a word’s biography helps us unlock both the biography of the individual who coined it as well as the age in which he or she lived. What follows are eight intriguing coinages that have altered the way we think about, see, hear, discover, and exist in the world around us:
Social media would certainly be a less cheerful place without Twitter’s chirpy logo: that powder-blue profile of a floating bird forever frozen in mid warble. But who first had the phonic imagination to fashion an onomatopoetic compromise between the language of feathers and the language of men? ‘Twitter’ (or ‘twiterith’ as it was initially crafted in the second half of the 14th century), first trilled from the quill of Geoffrey Chaucer in his translation of Consolation of Philosophyby the 6th Century philosopher Boethius. Predating both ‘chirp’ and ‘warble’ by a century, ‘twitter’ is one of over 2,200 words for which the Medieval poet is credited with having inked an inaugural usage. That it’s the same author who wrote the poem The Parlement of Foules seems entirely appropriate.